How much bandwidth do I need?

Bandwidth is one of the big questions I’m asked about the adoption of cloud technologies. It is obvious that between the connection by a gigabit network to the servers of the enterprise and that of a few megabits of an internet connection, there is a difference in performance and potentially cost.

But again, as with many other topics, everything can be summarized as a matter of infrastructure and a matter of use. Let’s take a few examples to illustrate my point.

One location and sedentary employees.

Let’s say that your organization is located in one place and that all employees work there, without ever having to travel. The calculation is simple: Is it more expensive to have your data center locally or to subscribe to a public cloud? It is enough to add the costs of acquiring and maintaining the hardware and software, and comparing them with that of the necessary bandwidth for the operation of the same hardware and software in the cloud.

In a first estimation, yes. This will suffice. It is always difficult to compare two models only on a financial aspect. If there is no directly comparable solution, their usage charges are comparable and that is what matters to us here.

One location and mobile employees.

Now let’s consider that some of your employees are mobile. For example, your sales reps, your maintenance technicians or your consultants. They must connect to your data center to access applications, such as e-mail, customer management, or inventory. So you need to set up a VPN connection, ensure that the applications work in a remote mode and have two connection modes: local and remote.

If all applications are in a public cloud, whether you are local or remote, you will probably connect to it in the same way. You may use a remote workstation to save bandwidth or in web mode, as with more and more modern applications.

Several locations, tens, hundreds or thousands of kilometers away.

This configuration is often unique to multinational corporations and companies with several agencies spread over a given territory. It calls for a more detailed analysis of its architecture. In fact, it is possible that, beyond the issues of security or connection availability, the architecture is organized in a hub-spoke way, and only one Internet access point is offered at the hub level. We then have a bottleneck of Internet access that will make a cloud solution more complex to implement.

As I enjoy repeating it to customers: if the public cloud was the panacea, we would not have invented the hybrid cloud! Each situation is unique, it calls a unique solution. However, the issue of mobile employees needs to be addressed if productivity is to be improved. And there, cloud technologies have generally no equals and few possible comparisons, particularly when you setup a private virtual network.


To close this topic on bandwidth, experience has shown me four essential points:

  • You need to carry an in-depth study of the network infrastructure. This will help you to understand the flows and identify potential bottlenecks. Do not embark on a public cloud project until you have upgraded the network topology and especially its routing.
  • The necessary bandwidth is directly dependent on the services used and always undersized by the service providers. Multiply it by two and you will not be far from reality!
  • Conduct an in-depth study of network and Internet flows before embarking on the implementation of cloud services. All the organizations are different and no recommendations can prove to be the true truth until tested.
  • The solution is always hybrid unless you want to embark 100% in public cloud. In this case, the connection to the data center becomes the critical point to be studied.

You will find more details on bandwidth in my book in Chapter 5, Best practices. You can preorder the Kindle version by clicking here.

Photo by Thomas Jensen, rawpixel on Unsplash

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